Innovative approach brings fun to urban plan

Painted footpath maze, a reason to play (Image supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan

Hamilton, February 15, 2023

An innovative approach for a major wastewater pipeline project in Hamilton infuses fun and play into new spaces.

As part of work to enable a new community in the Peacocke suburb, new wastewater pipes stretching 5.5 km from Cobham Drive in the city’s south through to Crosby Road, were completed at the end of last year.

Since November 2020, the project required the digging up of grass berms and other earthworks. However, rather than return those areas to how they were, Hamilton City Council staff, in partnership with Sport Waikato, saw a chance to inject some fun and colour into these outdoor spaces.

The Council’s Local Play advocate from Sport Waikato Dr Damien Puddle said, “Recognising contractors would be digging up footpaths and planted areas for the waste pipe works, we saw a chance to create some new play opportunities for the local community when returning the area back to normal.”

While Sport NZ is investing in encouraging play by introducing Play Advocates in Councils around the country, Hamilton has been trialling this programme over the last couple of years.

The obstacle course of rocks and logs for children to ‘play on the way’ (Image supplied)

What was done

As a part of the ‘Play Strategy’ which outlines the Council’s contribution towards play within the city and shares a vision for the next 20 years for impacting positively on the physical activity levels of people who live in or visit Hamilton city, some innovative play features were installed along the Alderson Road to Wairere Drive underpass footpath, an area that was closed for part of the works.

The new playful and fun space has a painted footpath “maze”, an obstacle course of rocks and logs, and a spot to measure your jumping distance.

The design ideas were inspired by students from nearby Insoll Avenue Primary School, with young designers proud to contribute to a city project.

Dr Puddle said, “This space is not designed to be a destination so they are relatively simple to play features that enable ‘play on the way’ to provide something fun for the community moving through the area.”

It is the first time play features have been incorporated into one of the Council’s wastewater infrastructure projects.

Bollards at Willoughby Park set up in a ‘slalom’ style obstacle course and sprint track (Image Supplied)

Why this was Planned

The ‘Active New Zealand Survey’ by Sport New Zealand and the ‘Moving Waikato 2025’ survey conducted by Sport Waikato indicate that participation in organised sport is declining, while participation in informal recreation is increasing. ‘Pop-up’/spontaneous play, and particularly children’s play, has received an increased amount of research and government attention, with a particular focus on the value of unstructured play on the development of children’s emotional, physical and mental skills and abilities.

The Play Strategy considers and aligns with a range of global, national, regional and local strategies, policies, plans and guidance including the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030 (World Health Organisation) United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child United Nations sustainable development goals around good health and wellbeing, sustainable cities and communities and life on land.

How people currently play in Hamilton

  • Fifty seven per cent of young people and 58 per cent of adults (aged 18 years or more) do enough physical activity each week to positively impact their health.
  • ‘Physical activity which is fun’ is an important driver for young people and adults alike:

– 52% of adults will only engage in physical activity if it is fun.

– 62% of young people (aged 8-17 years) participate in physical activity to have fun21.

  • Twenty-two per cent of Hamilton adults belong to a sports club.
  • People in Hamilton have competing demands on their time.

– 58% of adults have other commitments which take priority over physical activity.

– 39% of young people (aged 8-17 years) are too busy to undertake any physical activity.

Hamilton City Council’s Play Strategy aims to provide a range of opportunities for people to engage in physical activity across the city. Its vision is to make Hamilton a great place for everyone to play.

Puddle said before the strategy, play was only considered at locations such as playgrounds, parks and sports facilities.

Hamilton City Council is committed to enabling play across its business units and the city.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said Play is such an important part of our well-being, bringing creativity and informal exercise into our lives in a fun way.

She said, “I am looking forward to seeing how Hamilton develops in future to become the best City of Play it can be. We know play happens everywhere and that the Council’s capital projects can deliver innovative play opportunities in spaces outside of parks and playgrounds.”

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink  reporter based in Hamilton.

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